Sink or Swim

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# 1  
Old 11-21-2000

My background as a nuclear engineer has provided me many opportunities to interact with computing. I have now decided to make the career change into the wonderful world of UNIX since my industry continues to die a slow death. Can my vague college experience (beginner at best) using UNIX suffice to get my foot in the door of a programming company while I quickly come up to speed using the books both of you (PxT and Neo) recommended? I mean you have to start somewhere in the computing industry.

I am looking at an offer to do quality assurance work using UNIX and Oracle for a company. The work would require me to work by myself writing code to test new products. I am very good at developing tests as a quality assurance engineer in the nuclear industry, but I don't know enough of the commands in UNIX to work with the language. I have not written any scripts, although I do know what they are. I am willing to learn through the discipline way both of you recommend (i.e. no shortcuts). My question now becomes, is it possible to learn as you go on the job and still keep the job? Or should I decline the offer, read and study more until I get more comfortable programming, and then re-apply later? Both of you gentleman say the only way to learn is trial by fire, but I cannot afford to accept a job and then lose it because of incompetance. (Family, etc.)

Please give me your recommendation for a humble beginning of someone who wants to get their foot in the door. I really appreciated your recent threads on your humble beginnings.

Treading Water
# 2  
Old 11-21-2000
It wasn't so long ago that I was in your position, hoping an employer would take a chance with me....
Almost all of my own Unix knowledge was self-taught by reading and by playing around on various Unix systems. If you are comfortable working with computers, you will probably be able to get up to speed as an intermediate Unix user pretty quickly, especially given your previous exposure. You will have to put in the time to do some reading, and of course have a machine you can access to practice and explore as you go...
As for the job, I think you should be honest with the potential employer about your skill may find that they are willing to send you to a training class to get you up to speed. On the other hand, they might need someone who has more would be better to find out now, than 3 months from now in the CIO's office! Smilie
In summary: Go for it, be honest about your skills, but also be honest about your eagerness to learn...

Good luck.

[Edited by PxT on 11-21-2000 at 06:16 PM]
# 3  
Old 11-21-2000
The paraphrase or interpretation of our posts to the tune "trial-by-fire" and "sink-or-swim" is somewhat misleading, but interesting Smilie Throughout all the posts, the advice has been to get the foundation texts (and the references are provided below),
build your own UNIX system(s) and learn step-by-step. As PxT says, the limiting factor is your own personal motivation to learn.

If you have not bought the texts, built your own systems, learned to code, or learned the basics of the UNIX operating system (or plan to before moving into the UNIX field) I suggest that seeking a UNIX job is not for you.

UNIX is a vast field which requires a great amount of personal motivation, late night wrangling, reading, and hands on practice. There is no trial-by-fire or sink-or-swim. If you follow the suggested path, you will be an expert. There are no shortcuts to learning a powerful infrastructure such as UNIX, network programming, C or C++, shell programming, etc. These are skills which are acquired by fire, not tried by fire. First, you must acquire the skills.

One analogy is martial arts training. At a good school, two years of training gives a black belt. The black belt is a symbol of learning the basics; not of finality. The black belt signifies some (small degree) of acquired knowledge. A yellow belt who gets into the ring with a 'second degree black belt' is a fool and no 'real' black belt would allow that to happen.

UNIX is very similar. Only a foolish novice tries to pass themselves off a black belt and get into a job which requires advanced "black belt" UNIX skills. There is no sink-or-swim and no trial-by-fire. There is only hard work, patience, practice and more hard work. If you follow the advice in the threads on which books to study and build you own systems, you will progress. There are no shortcuts to becoming a UNIX master just like there are no shortcuts to becoming a master of any other discipline.

My sincere apologies if this post is too direct and has an impatient tone. That is not my intent. It is difficult, for me, to explain to someone that there are no shortcuts in life and we are only limited by the barriers that we create as individuals. One does not 'jump to UNIX', one 'becomes familiar with the UNIX operating system and environment'. Just like golf, you don't just go out, buy clubs, shoes and balls and then play par golf. There is no 'sink or swim' in golf, you practice, learn to play, progress, and practice more. It's just Zen, really, and in this context, Zen means 'understanding things for what they actually are, not what we want them to be'.

[Edited by Neo on 11-21-2000 at 11:15 PM]
# 4  
Old 11-21-2000
Bug Thanks

I appreciate your advice it has helped me tremendously. I look forward to the future.

1. Can you recommend a dictionary like book on UNIX commands?

2. Perhaps another book on the overall layout (big picture) of how application software like C++, PERL, and JAVA relate to both object orientated database languages like ORACLE and SQL, and to operating system languages like UNIX and Windows NT.

3. Do all e-commerce setups fall into a similiar hardware/software design setups like CORBA? For that matter how many different design setups exist using UNIX?

I have a lot of questions, but I know you guys are busy helping each and every one of us newbies so I will just wait my turn to ask more. Thanks for all the help!!!
# 5  
Old 11-21-2000
MySQL Good questions. Please Repost

Your questions are excellent. Please post individual questions in a new thread. This helps keep the search capability of the knowledge base 'cleaner'. Thanks!
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